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Three Core i7 Systems From Boutique Builders

Pricing And Conclusion

Not only did all three manufacturers have no problem coming in under our $2,500 price cap, but each of them managed to pack a lot of bells and whistles into their boxes. We appreciate the performance tuning that AVADirect and CyberPower performed on their offerings, and dig the liquid-cooling systems these two were able to squeeze into their budgets. Even if we hadn’t helped them along, Alienware’s size and influence typically enables it to be first in line when new components such as Nvidia’ GeForce GTX 295 are handed out.

The Thermaltake V9 enclosure that AVADirect chose is attractive enough, but the fact that it doesn’t accommodate a front FireWire port cost it several points because we figured downloading video from a digital camcorder to be a crucial application. And while you’ll never mistake an Alienware enclosure for any other manufacturer’s offering, we need more than just two USB ports in front. The CyberPower system not only included five front-mounted USB ports, but it boasted FireWire and eSATA, too. AVADirect and CyberPower also included media-card readers—another important feature for a multimedia-oriented rig; Alienware did not.

AVADirect and CyberPower bested Alienware in terms of storage, too. Both companies delivered machines with more than a terabyte, compared to the Alienware’s dual 500 GB drives in RAID 0. If you plan to use your computer for audio recording, video editing, 3D modeling, and similar applications, you’ll need as much storage as possible.

But when it comes to the bottom line, CyberPower did the best job of building a system that met all our requirements. Granted, their machine had the weakest videocard, but it also came with the fastest CPU, the fastest RAM, the best enclosure, and a Blu-ray player. We’d recommend spending a few extra bucks for a stronger power supply and a better videocard (if you’re interested in playing games), but it’s hard to argue with the rest of this configuration.

  • gkay09
    Well this article would help people buying preassembled computer very much...
    Reply
  • crisisavatar
    all 3 suck concidering you can add a 24 inch monitor, high quality speakers, audio card, gaming mouse/keyboard and still have money to spare.

    ps. running a couple of gtx 260s at stock will be more than enough to pull 45 fps in crysis and everything else at idk fps.
    Reply
  • crisisavatar
    ups forgot to add the new OCZ vortex 30g ssd in raid 0 to boot up and still be in budget.
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines"?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Hummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.

    I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
    Reply
  • pivalak
    Oooops... sorry for the multiple posts. I had some issues with my browser (does anyone know how to delete them?) :(
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Kind of surprised that Thomas Soderstrom's (is he swedish btw?) $2,500 core i7 build from December wasn't mentioned from what I could see for comparison.
    If anyone is curious how tom's home-build system compares to the boutiques here's the link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-overclock,2116.html

    From the gaming benches on that review it appears that the now slightly outdated december build still trumps the above builds with its triple 260 SLI and 4.0 Ghz overclocked 920. Best value award goes Tom's own Build! Now if only that one came pre-built with a 3 year warranty .... guess I'll still be getting out my toolkit (no pun intended)
    Reply
  • MrMick
    pivalakHummm, what I tend to miss on these reviews is an actual measurement of the noise generated by the system.I mean, the subjective evaluation provided is still useful, but... how noisy is "surprisingly quiet" or "the loudest of the three machines" in this case?
    Hi, I'm the author of the story. Trying to objectively measure a system's noise levels without sophisticated measurement equipment is as problematic as describing them subjectively.

    I have a level meter, but decided not to use it because it wasn't sensitive enough to measure noise levels where it mattered--at ear level where I was seated. I needed to measure the ambient room noise with no computers running to set a basis for comparison, and the meter wasn't sensitive enough to do that.

    And even if the meter was sensitive enough for my purpose, the decibel measurement would be relevant only for the environment in which I was testing (my home office, which measures 13.6x8 feet).
    Reply
  • “No one ever got laughed at for buying an Alienware.”

    Are you kidding? They have to be the most overpriced POS on the market.

    Pfft. Alienware = glorified console.

    Real PC gamers build their own. Period.
    Reply